The “M” Day. There is no other day of the year that I dreaded nearly as much as Mother’s Day. It is a no win situation. Somewhere between my own personal grief surrounding my inability to participate in the day and other people’s painful comments that were intended to be helpful, the day was difficult.
Each year I would resolve to focus my energy on the mothers in hubby and I’s life. After all, we had great reason to celebrate. We are among the fortunate to have solid relationships with our mothers and they are alive and well. Not everyone we knew had the same luxury.
My determination faded fast year after year. My desire to praise the women in our life would get overshadowed by the sadness. The day was a stark reminder of my unfulfilled desire to be a mother. The pain was too overwhelming to focus on much else.
People would try to help me feel better. It was always such a conflict to me. I wanted people to be aware that the day was hard, but I did not want pity. Most people could guess that it was a difficult day to navigate, but few knew what to actually do.
Finding the right words to say can be tricky in the face of the grief that infertility causes. Here are some things that were helpful for me.
I KNOW THIS DAY IS DIFFICULT FOR INFERTILE WOMEN. HOW ARE YOU DOING?
This question makes no assumptions as to how the woman is handling the emotions of the day. Not everyone is the same and it may change from year to year. The statement names the difficulty without implying that an infertile woman *should* feel one way or the other.
When you ask how they are doing keep the tone in a way to imply that you are ready to listen. Some women may not be ready to open up and others may unload their emotions. Either way you leave the door open to allow for them to respond however they are comfortable.
IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP?
Often there is not much anyone can do to take the sting out of the roller coaster journey. The infertility road is a lonely one. So few people can relate. This questions conveys to the couple that they are not alone in the struggle. Someone cares. Even if the couple declines help, they will walk away feeling loved.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY BUT I WANT TO KNOW YOU ARE LOVED.
So many truly have no idea what to say. Simply acknowledging that is important. Again it lets the couple know that others are wanting to support them. Words carry not nearly the impact that feeling loved does.
Avoid false statements and advice. Here are some unhelpful, sometimes even hurtful, statements.
IT WILL HAPPEN IN GOD’S TIMING.
No human has an inside track in knowing what God’s plan is for our lives. No one knows except God if pregnancy is actually going to happen. To suggest this merely leaves an impression similar to telling an infertile couple to “Just relax.”
HAVE YOU TRIED…?
Infertility treatment is a private choice of each couple. So many people hold preconceived notions as to what is morally acceptable and what is not. I cringed when people would ask this of us because we were comfortable pursing some avenues but not others. I did not want unsolicited advice as to what others thought was a good plan. I also did not want to offend anyone who had pursued treatment that we were not comfortable with. It is an individual decision for each couple and not anyone else’s business.
BE THANKFUL THAT…
Implying that an infertile couple should transform their pain into a grateful attitude only invalidates the devastation that infertility leaves behind. Trust me, I wanted to appreciate the good things in life. The grief was like a black hole sucking joy from my life. There are so many invisible losses that are hard to comprehend that go beyond the simple loss of ability to conceive a child. The pain of it all make it difficult to focus emotional energy onto anything aside from simply getting through the day.
The most important thing you can do for an infertile couple this Mother’s Day is to let them know they are loved and not alone in this struggle. Keep questions open ended and be prepared to listen. Whether or not the couple wants to talk is up to them, but simply acknowledging their pain will go a long way in helping them navigate this difficult day.